My Amazon Author Page

Find my Amazon author page via this link

"A Scottish Wind in the Willows on high end skunk."

"I enjoy Kate's stories..."
"A fun and spooky read..."

"The characters are so involving and
loveable that you do want them to really exist. It does read like you've
stumbled across someone's long lost diary from and alternate timeline/universe.
I quickly got into the story and loved every second of reading it...
total gem of a read by an author who deserves a lot more recognition."


SCROLL DOWN THE PAGE TO FIND LINKS TO ALL FOUR BOOKS

Wednesday, 31 December 2014

The Dark and the Deep (part one)

'The dark days Tuppy....why can't we dig ourselves out?'
'Because we're getting older, Geoffrey, and as you get older it becomes more and more difficult.  And besides - sometimes, you go too deep......'
'Have we gone too deep, Tuppy?'
'I don't know.  Remember when we went to the centre of the earth, and right through to Australia, and waved to Doug McClure on the way back (please see Sea Penguin Part Four for details, if you're interested)? That was deep.  About as deep as deep can be. And we came back.  But that was a few years ago. I'm not sure if we could do it now.'
'Do you think that if we went on a health and fitness regime, that might help improve our energy levels?'
'No.  That kind of thing never helps.'
'We could ask Val Nark for some detox tips.'
'No we forking couldn't Geoffrey. Aren't you forgetting that she's gone over to the dark side?  What about the multiple bird roasts and the Spring lamb carry-on? (see yesterday's post for details, if you're interested).'
'Just because she's selling them it doesn't mean that she's partaking of them herself.  She could still be vegan.'
'Oh come off it.'
'She's got to keep body and soul together somehow, and you said yourself that the flapjack market has collapsed.  She's had to diversify in order to survive.'
'She didn't have to diversify into m-m-meat.  That's US Geoffrey.  I don't understand why you've any sympathy for her.'
'I s'pose you're right.'
'I AM right.  Now stick the kettle on.  My head hurts.'
'We can worry about the dark and the deep tomorrow?'
'Yes.  Preferably through a comforting blanket of mind-numbing psychotropics.'

More later........

Saturday, 27 December 2014

It's All Over.....thank goodness.....

Well, that's it over for another year.  The feasting, the merry-making, the false jollity, the hangovers, the upset stomachs, the heartburn, the angst, the self-hatred, the guilt, the disappointment, the loneliness, the boredom,  the ennui, the bad memories,  the regret, the overspending, the falling-comatose-on-the-sofa-at-all-hours-for-no-reason-that-you-can-think-of and so forth.
Not to mention the chucking-people-off-cliffs custom, which as any reader of Sea Penguins Parts One to Five will know, happens with stomach-churning regularity Hereabouts, and most especially at Yule, when the person voted Most Unpopular in the annual Yuletide poll, gets chucked 'over-the-top'.  But more of that later.
Or perhaps not.
Geoffrey and I are well-past-it, of course, in terms of forced jollity merry-making;  plus, we are sufficently self-aware to know that we're known locally as miserable and stingey 'old-git-style-personages', who dislike 'company', so we kept a fairly low profile.  Not entirely, therefore, but largely, through choice.  Tuppence usually turns up for Yuletide luncheon (extra-large sausages, marinated for three days in the cellar in our own absinthe-and-sage micksture, twenty-five apiece, all neatly threaded and roasted on a spit with M &S fish-fingers and windfall russet apples in between, just for the aesthetic appeal - we don't actually eat 'froot' Hereabouts, as regular readers will know).  But he's getting older now, and this year he decided not to join us. Instead, he borrowed my waterproof trousers, my tinderbox, a jar of beef paste, four loaves of bread, three tins of spaghetti hoops and the Tupfinder General's old army tent, and went off to have an adventure Out in the Wilds with some of his so-called friends - more of that later, if he returns.
Geoffrey has been feeling especially paranoid this year due to the current bizarre fetish for 'multiple bird roasts'.  And well he might.  The Narks have jumped on the bandwagon.  Back in November they turned one of their yurts into a 'farm shop' and started taking orders for an organic version, using 'locally-sourced, free-range meat', and stuffed with seaweed and hunza apricots.  They even put a blackboard outside, with prices. Fifty quid a pop,  apparently.  Yet they won't specify which 'locally-sourced' birds are involved.
'As long as it's not me I don't care Tuppy,' he sobbed. 'I don't want to end up in the middle of a Russian doll-style fowl-fest, rolled and frozen in a box with several of my friends. It doesn't bear thinking about.'
'So much for their so-called vegan lifestyle with their herbal tisanes and their aduki bean rissoles.  They've gone for the meat dollar Geoffrey - and that tells you all you need to know.  I'll never sample one of Val's goji berry and raw oat flapjacks again, not even if she gets down on her bended knees and begs.  So help me I won't.'
'I doubt if she'll have the brass neck to make flapjacks now Tuppy.  Not after soiling her hands with multiple bird roasts.'
'I wouldn't be too sure Geoffrey.  It's follow the money with those two.  You'd think butter wouldn't melt what with their Peruvian hats and their rustic hand-knits, but really they've no scruples.  For now the flapjack market has bottomed out, but who knows - in the Spring it could rise again and she'll be flogging them as fast as she can bake 'em. She'd probably start a flapjack sweat-shop if she could.'
'Tuppy.'
'Yes?'
'Brace yourself.  I've heard rumours that she plans to sell....I'm awfully sorry to have to say it, but... Spring lamb...in the Spring,..in her farm shop...there will be a big special promotion on at Easter,  apparently.'  Geoffrey pressed his hankie to his mouth and cried a little.
'Well don't fret Geoffrey, because that won't affect me.  I'm well-past the lamb stage,'  I replied briskly, pulling the tartan knee rug tighter over my arthritic...knees. 'But we should plan ahead and warn Tuppence as soon as he returns.  He's an adolescent now but in her warped eyes he might just qualify as a lamb.  Luckily, he's very resourceful, and handy with his pistols ( see previous e-books for details http://www.amazon.co.uk/Kate-Smart/e/B008MFK3NE/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1) , so he should be able to protect himself, if need be.'
'But that's the point Tuppy.  Why should he have to protect himself?  Why should he have to live in fear?  It's not right.'
'Of course it's not right Geoffrey.  Many things in life are not right.  But what can we do?'
'We must think of something Tuppy.  We can't just give in.'
'We'll never give in Geoffrey. But for now let's fortify ourselves with a snack and a nap, and perhaps a mug of that nice French brandy you got me for Yule.  We can think about life's trickier side after.'

More Later....

Meanwhile, please help yourself to Sea Penguins One and Two for free today and tomorrow (27th and 28th) via this link to my Amazon page.  http://www.amazon.co.uk/Kate-Smart/e/B008MFK3NE/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_pop_1


'  

Friday, 26 December 2014

Today's Walk.....Christmas Day

video
We had our Christmas dinner on Christmas Eve, and went for a long-ish walk on Christmas day, taking coffee, sandwiches made from leftovers, gingerbread, and oranges for a picnic by a loch a few miles away.  Cold, clear blue skies - red kites and buzzards displaying high above, roe deer grazing in the woods, hosts of small birds in the lower trees. Right on top of a pine tree I think I saw a crossbill. The loch was half-frozen over, and two whooper swans swam slowly to and fro in the open water, accompanied by a group of mallards.  The drakes' feathers were iridescent on the sunshine and had I a better camera I could have got some terrific photos.  The path alongside was icy with puddles that crunched and snapped satisfyingly underfoot and feeling invigorated (much to our surprise, because we felt like a pair of wrecks before we started) we walked on to a second loch.  It was bone-chillingly cold so we didn't linger.   As the sun began to sink and we followed the path home through the darkening woods we got that eery, slightly spooked feeling that one associates with Christmas, and we felt deeply thankful for our health, which allows us to enjoy such walks, and for our home.

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

A Merry Yuletide to All

A hasty post to let you know that Sea Penguins One and Two are available for free over Christmas - unfortunately, I haven't managed to write a single fresh word for the past few days, mainly due to feeling paralysed by a weird kind of 'festive stress'.  I hope that wears off very soon.

Here's the link to my Amazon page, with the free downloads.  http://www.amazon.co.uk/Kate-Smart/e/B008MFK3NE/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1419433335&sr=8-1 

Friday, 19 December 2014

Working on a new Sea Penguin Christmas story at the moment - hope to have it done by Christmas Eve.  Not sure what format to use - whether simply to publish it in my usual way on here, or to Kindle it - maybe I'll do both.  I'll see how the time goes, and how pleased I am with it.

Meanwhile,  while most are now in an ordinary shop, a few wooden painted things and pictures by Barry Nicol are still for sale online in the Etsy shop,  and all the old Sea Penguin books can be found for sale here  .
If you're interested in a piece of artwork that isn't available online, please get in touch with me (Twitter is best @Sea_Penguin5 ) and I'll do my best to help.

Thursday, 18 December 2014





Can't see the wood for the trees sometimes.
Solstice approaches, it's all but dark by mid-afternoon and everything's quiet, as it should be.  There's an unsettling when it's mild, as it is today, and you sense an underlying restlessness - flutterings, rustlings, new growth pushing through.  Spring is not far away, really, the wheel of life is turning and you know that nothing ever really dies.
There are lots of woods nearby.  A few are especially popular with dog-walkers, so Sundays are best avoided if you want to see wildlife.  On a week day you might see roe deer, red squirrels, occasionally a fox.  Certainly you'll hear , if not see, jays. Buzzards fly out from the trees to the fields, scouting for food.  Looking up through a break in the trees you're likely to see a skein of geese, although you'll hear them first.  Once I saw a goshawk.
Lots of little birds in the undergrowth and smaller trees at the edge - wrens, robins, tits and the like. Plenty of rabbit holes.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Two Walks - to the woods





An icy afternoon walk along a farm track by a loch, which shelters a good range of ducks,  geese and swans, and onwards to a large wood.
We saw several wild whooper swans flying low over the fields, and then another one followed;  we hoped it managed to catch up.
I forgot to take my binoculars so couldn't identify any other wildfowl on the loch.  No geese, I think, which is unusual, and only a couple of flights of small ducks.  No other birds apparent on land apart from some very subdued tweeting sounds from the bushes, long tailed tits possibly. And two robins by the gate.
We didn't walk into the woods - it felt very Little Red Riding Hood.  Everything cold and dank and silent and still.  Waiting...

Yesterday I walked round another nearby field, and saw a flock of reed warblers, and two roe deer running through a snowstorm.





Friday, 12 December 2014

Art work news

The original Seapenguin painting, by Barry Nicol
Printed postcards with the original Sea Penguin image are available to buy for £1 via our Etsy shop.  Here is the link https://www.etsy.com/uk/listing/198952926/a-printed-postcard-featuring-the? Find other items in the shop via the Etsy badge on the right hand side of the page also.  Some pieces are now in a 'real' shop and one or two have sold, but please get in touch if you're interested in buying something that's currently listed as unavailable and we'll do our best to help.
Barry Nicol has done all the art work for the Sea Penguin series and is currently working on a new version of the original painting, which I'm really looking forward to seeing.  If I get a new Sea Penguin book written, it'll most likely be the cover.
I hope to have a Christmas Tuppy and Geoffrey story ready sometime over the next few days.

Free Download just now

 the tupfinder general by barry nicol all rights reserved
The Tupfinder General by Barry Nicol
Here is the link to Sea Penguin Part Four - the Soul Extractor, which as I mentioned the other day is free to download for the next couple of days.   http://www.amazon.co.uk/Sea-Penguin-Extractor-Outcrop-Selections-ebook/dp/B007KUXBM2/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1418378906&sr=8-1&keywords=sea+penguin+part+four

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Blog and Writing Update

A very brief update on my latest...whatever.
1.  re. my Book Week pledge - I kept this, much to my own astonishment.  And not without a modicum of difficulty;  my local Cancer Research usually has a fairly reasonable selection of books, but when I went in on my book week quest the shelves were filled with dreadful, smelly old cookery books and Maeve Binchy.  Almost as bad as the local library!  '1599 - A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare', by James Shapiro, and 'Rat Pack Confidential' by Shawn Levy were the best I could find.  Two for a pound, so I won't complain.  Rat Pack Confidential was the only showbiz book they had by the way - and it's disappointing.  I'm almost a third of the way through it and it isn't really telling me anything I don't already know.
2. The Novel Progress Chart is somewhere underneath a vast pile of stuff that needs filing, i.e. putting in the box under the bed where everything boring but which probably shouldn't be thrown out, goes. Which gives you an idea of how well THAT'S going.
3.  I've got another free download starting later today (11th).  This time it's Sea Penguin Part 4 - The Soul Extractor.  I'll post a link later.  I feel bad about punting this again - I really need to write some new material.

More later - hopefully.  Now I must sleep. 

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Today's Walk - nowhere in particular....


...except on planet Earth, of course, somewhere between the Moon and the Sun.
There was a huge, almost Full Moon rising at our backs, and the winter sun setting behind the horizon in front of us, and there we were, the two of us,  walking on the Earth between.  It felt quite extraordinary.
Lucky to get a great sighting of a male merlin hunting along ditches by a frosty field before the sun got too low, and four swans, flying.

Monday, 1 December 2014

The Scrying Pool

 scrying pool

Today,  Geoffrey and I took a trip to the scrying pool (pictured), which is located By the Big Rock, high on the moors.
Why?  Well, Apsley Fulmar lost a Euromillions ticket yesterday, and word has it that it's a winner.  He and Cherry are frantic - they've combed all the obvious places, beginning with the top of the fridge, the mantlepiece, the bathroom shelf, their coat and trouser pockets, and then widening it out to everyone's coat and trouser pockets, the cliffs, the tourist car park, and the Puff Inn toylits - nothing, apparently, except a few bent coppers, a 1962 edition of the Bunty 'bumper' summer special, five milk chews, a packet of Smith's cheese and onion crisps, two empty Kestrel lager tins (squashed), Shergar (alive and kicking),  'Lucky' Lucan (likewise), and enough fluff to stuff the giant of Brogdingnag's sofa.
As they're incomers, Apsley and Cherry don't know about the scrying pool.  We, however, do.
So, we thought we'd see if it might offer up some information.
It didn't.
Hard though we tried  scried, we could see nothing but the reflection of a clear blue sky and some trees and weeds and such-like.
Strange, because it was pouring with rain, the wind was howling like a pack of deranged wolves, and we have no trees, Hereabouts....
We tottered homewards through the foul weather, sustained by thoughts of toasting vast sausages over a roaring fire, basting them with a mixture of their own fat, wholegrain mustard and red AND brown sauces, and then napping on the settee after washing them down with several pewter mugfuls of Madeira, heated of course, using the rather devil-may-care but tried and tested method of plunging a red hot poker in.
The Euromillions ticket remains at large...for now........

more about that, later.

Sea Penguin Part Five will be free to download for five days starting tomorrow (2nd).  Here's the link http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B00FW19E0Y?*Version*=1&*entries*=0

Here's a link to my Amazon page, with details of all five Tuppy and Geoffrey e-books http://www.amazon.co.uk/Kate-Smart/e/B008MFK3NE/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_pop_1

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

The Soup Crisis



'Last Tuesday we ran out of soup.  I couldn’t believe it at first.  We always have soup.  Carrot and tomato, lentil, parsnip and potato, banana and peach. 
Just a few of my favourites.
I prefer a starchy soup.  But I don’t care for legumes.  Leguminous soup gives me wind.
They say, soak and boil the beans first and rinse off the starchy residue.  I can’t be arsed, quite frankly.  Can anyone?  I just fling them in the pan.  Sometimes I use a dried legume; on other occasions I might use tinned.
The other day, I read about tins being dangerous.  Not tins in and of themselves, other than the lids, which as we all know are lethal if you’re not vigilant.   It’s the lining, you see.  It affects the contents in some way that I couldn’t really be bothered remembering.
It’s a bit confusing really.  One newspaper expert says that half a can of peaches, for example, provides one of your five a day.  The other half can be flung in the bin, or saved for another day.  Or perhaps given to someone else, if you’re not on your own.  Another newspaper expert says that you shouldn’t eat from tins at all, because the lining of the tin has a harmful effect on your corporeum.
I don’t know what to make of it all, at all.
I like soup.  I like to make soup from tins.  Perhaps I should cut out the middle man and drink tinned soup.
Which brings me to another problem.  Does one eat soup, or does one drink it?
I suppose if one is faced with a plateful of leguminous soup, packed with chunky legumes and such like, one might eat it rather than drink it.

Are eating and drinking the same thing?  Are the words interchangeable?  And if so, is one of the words therefore redundant?  Sort of like the tail of a tadpole, before it transforms into a frog or toad?'

This (the above) is what I saw when I accidentally peered into Geoffrey's brain last Sunday evening while searching, vainly, for a lost pyjama button down the back of the sofa - an endless ream of words that make little sense, unless you happen to be Geoffrey.  And even then, you might give up and have a biscuit.  

Friday, 21 November 2014

The Ivory Gull

The bonny ivory gull (photo from wikipedia)
 http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b04mlvxt That's a link to this morning's Radio Four's Tweet of the Day feature - and I'm blogging it because I'd like to preserve it ( as well as share it with any interested readers - all two of you...).  Today's bird is the ivory gull.  Before last night when someone mentioned it to me on Twitter I hadn't ever heard of the ivory gull;  I'm so glad that I now know of its existence because it is the most beautiful bird - snowy white, a creature of the icy, northern realms - absolutely lovely.  Unfortunately and predictably it's also endangered, due to its habit of feeding on the livers of seals (among other things), which have been contaminated via human pollution.
If I ever get the money I will travel to the icy realms and I will see the beautiful ivory gull, before it disappears...

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Measuring the Thinness (or thickness) of the Line betwixt the Living and the Dead

All Hallow's Eve has been and gone, and we're still here.
November the 5th has been and gone, and we're still here, despite effigies of us both being burnt to a crisp on bonfires on top of the moor, placed on a go-kart and shoved smartly downhill to plummet off the cliffs into the raging sea below.
Next up, the winter Solstice, and Yuletide, with all its merriment,  LED fairy lights, trifle, presents, sherry,  sausage rolls,  and general horror and ghastliness.
Ah well.  The wheel turns, and there is nothing that we can do to stop it - unless we tunnel into the centre of the Earth and interfere with its axis of gravity somehow, by filling it with black pudding or whatever.
Personally,  I find the relentless, grinding, nature of the turning of the Earth a bit passive aggressive in flavour. But that's just me!  And perhaps I'll feel differently tomorrow*.
Last Saturday Geoffrey's DebSoc debated the rights and wrongs of Trick or Treating, which is just about the level I would expect from a club that calls itself 'DebSoc'.
Back at the Rocky Outcrop we were in better form, sitting either side of our customary roaring driftwood fire with steaming mugs of Madeira and platefuls of salty snax, discussing the precise nature and thinness of the line betwixt the living and the dead.
The Tupfinder General had joined us for the evening.  "I'd say it's so thin as to be negligible," he said,  toasting a row of sausages, kebab-style, on the end of his sword-stick.
"You mean there's no discernable difference between us and dead people?"asked Geoffrey through a mouthful of mini cheddars.  "How do we know which side of the line we're on then?"
"We don't,"  I replied.
"And how do we know when we've crossed it?"
"We don't know that either."
"So we three might be dead, and we might not even know?"
"That's about the size of it."
"Wait till I tell them at DebSoc!  I'm bound to win Whinge of the Week with that one!"
"It's hardly a Whinge, though, is it?"  I said doubtfully.
"I'd say it qualifies," said the Tupfinder General, "Depending on how it's phrased. For example, you could say 'why oh why don't we know if, when, or indeed why, for that matter, we're dead?'  That would be a good whinge.  Three whinges in one, if you can be bothered taking the time to deconstruct it.  Sort of like an Aldi three-bird roast, like the one Mrs T-G has had in the freezer for the last four years, beneath the Viennetta, the bag of pre-digested Macedoine, and Aunt Bessie's extra-greasy Yorkshire Puddings."
"Yes!  Or I could try, 'why oh why is the line betwixt the living and the dead so appallingly thin?' "Geoffrey enthused.
"You could even start a campaign to get it thickened,"  said the Tupfinder General, "Sort of like dualling the A9."
"I'll start by putting a Notice up on Val and Dave Nark's Noticeboard at the main Yurt. 'Anyone wanting to get the line betwixt the living and the dead thickened forthwith, please sign your name below or contact Geoffrey direct at The Rocky Outcrop,  3,  The Cliffs,  Hereabouts.'  Thanks T-G!"

*probably not though.

more later.

More - lots and lots more - five volumes more, in fact - from Tuppy, Geoffrey and the Tupfinder General in my e-books - here are links to two of them.   http://www.amazon.co.uk/Sea-Penguin-Fireside-Outcrop-Selections-ebook/dp/B007IKMM7E/ref=pd_rhf_gw_p_img_10 http://www.amazon.co.uk/Sea-Penguin-Extractor-Outcrop-Selections-ebook/dp/B007KUXBM2/ref=pd_sim_kinc_1?ie=UTF8&refRID=1FBG4AFEVW3TFRM4B252

'


Tuesday, 28 October 2014

If anyone's looking for Christmas slash Yuletide presents, please have a look at the stuff in our online shop www.etsy.com/uk/shop/BlueCoracle .  Prices range from £2 for a Sea Penguin postcard right through to £300 for a full scale painting - all by Scottish artist Barry Nicol who kindly did the e-book covers.  Do please have a browse - you might as well.  A lot of the stuff is painted on pieces of wood that we've sourced close to home in Perthshire or found on beaches elsewhere in Scotland.  For example, the pine marten (£15) is painted on driftwood we found on Mull back in May this year, and the fieldmice  (£30 for the one on wood, £3 for A5 printed postcards) are on wood found washed up on a local lochside, then left to dry out in our shed.  There's only so much of it that we can contain in our tiny wizened little cottage so I'll be much obliged if you'll take it off our hands.
I'm also planning a Christmas slash Yuletide e-book promotion at some point, for anyone who's not already got them. http://www.amazon.co.uk/Kate-Smart/e/B008MFK3NE/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_pop_1

Ardalanish Bay, Isle of Mull

www.seapenguin-thecurioussheep.blogspot.com
Uisken from the cairn,  Isle of Mull

Monday, 27 October 2014

Geoffrey and Tuppy talk about defibrillators and biscuits and Death and university.

'People are so boring nowadays.  By people I mean poets.  Not that I know any poets, but...'
'I know what you mean.  I've been dying to talk to you about this all week only it slipped my mind. We were only saying at DebSoc the other night...Tuppy? TUPPY!'
'Yes?  Oh sorry.  It's just when you say 'DebSoc' it knocks me out cold.  I'll just have a quick whiff of sal volatile, and run some silver foil over my fillings, and I should be able to resume my normal level of consciousness - without having to charge up the defibrillator.'
'Oh yes.  Last time we did that, it fused the lights.  And the Fulmars' jacoozy stopped pumping. The rats* strapped to the bikes down at the power station just couldn't cope Tuppy.  They've still not forgiven you for showing them up like that.  Revealing their weaknesses and all.  They like to pretend they're invincible.'
'I know all that and I don't want reminding.  Now please continue with your dreadful tale, if you must.  The sooner you start, the sooner it's over with, and I can go back to thinking about the inevitability of Death, and whether it might be a  good or bad idea to speed its relentless, grinding approach with an over-ingestion of Fox's double chocolate chunk cookies at tea-time - only don't say 'DebSoc' out loud.'
'O.K.'
Geoffrey and I were sitting by the fire digesting our lunches.   I'd had three pint mugs of tea and a five-sausage sandwich with butter, pepper, and brown sauce, and he'd had a thimbleful of buttonberry and ox blood daisy-honey tisane and an aduki bean burger with half a dozen alf-alfa sprouts.
Outside the wind howled and raged like a snarling devil-dog lashed to the gates of Hell and straining at the leash.
'The wind sounds remarkably like a snarling devil-dog lashed to the gates of Hell and straining at its leash Tuppy,' said Geoffrey, picking an alf-alfa sprout out of his upper right pre-molar.
'Yes indeed.  And those flecks of rain could even be hideous slobbers flung from its vast ravening jaws.  Ah well.  Let's put the kettle on again and continue our discussion about Dylan Thomas.  In fact - let's go one better and crack open a fresh bottle of Madeira in his honour.  The sun's well over the yard-arm, I think. Not that I've any idea when or where or indeed what the yard-arm actually is.'
'Me neither.  I'm trying to lay off the drink Tuppy.  Val Nark says...'
'Val Nark can naff off.  Last time I saw her she tried to sell me a blueberry e-pipe.  Ten quid it was Geoffrey. Ten quid!  Think of all the baccy I could get for that.  If I had to buy it instead of steal it, of course.'
'Val Nark wants me to go to university Tuppy.  There, I said it.'  Geoffrey blushed and gulped and looked generally incredibly uncomfortable.  I stared at him over my eye-glasses and tried my best to make him feel even worse.
'University?'
'Yes.  She says I've got potential Tuppy.  She says I can go far.  She wants me to study book-learning,' he blurted.
'You've already BEEN far.  You've gone right round the naffing world**.'
'I suppose so...'
'And who needs book-learning?  We've got a pile of books over there, and we never open them.  Why?  Because we don't need to.  We've got all the knowledge we need right here.'  I tapped my forehead with the leg of my specs. and tried to look convincing.
'She says I could get a degree Tuppy.  In literature or philosophy maybe.  She says I'm bright.'
'Has she got a degree?'
'No.  But sometimes she listens to Radio 4 Tuppy, and that's almost as good,  if not better.'
'Who says that?'
'She does.'


more of this later...............

*the rats power all the electricity Hereabouts, by bicycling on vast numbers of exercise bikes in the tunnels below the cliffs.
**Geoffrey circumnambulated the globe on more than one occasion.
Details of all this and much much more, of course, in the e-books to be found via this link to Amazon  here http://www.amazon.co.uk/Kate-Smart/e/B008MFK3NE/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1414419081&sr=8-1

Friday, 24 October 2014

Today's walk, near home. Autumn.

the lade 24.10.14

field 24.10.14

Now Reading....A Female Genius (Ada Lovelace)

Just a quick update on my latest reading material.  I appreciate that this will be of no interest whatever to anyone, not even to me actually, but having mentioned my most recent library loans a few weeks ago (yes, it's taken me that long to plough through (two of) them) I feel I need to at least make a gesture towards continuity.
I finished Tony Benn's last Diaries - A Blaze of Autumn Sunshine, and I did enjoy them but with some reservations, previously noted.
I returned the William Burroughs unread - unopened actually.  I just was not in the mood.
I am now nearly halfway through the book about Ada Lovelace and am really enjoying it.  I love a good biography.  I know quite a lot about the Romantic era as I went through a 'phase' in the early 90s, and so some of the background was familiar to me.  The book (by James Essinger) is written in an entertaining style but I must say the editing isn't impressive and the writing feels quite sloppy at times, which I find annoying.  It also makes me wonder about its historical accuracy - if they're careless about one aspect perhaps they've let other things slide.  Publishers should at least take the trouble to tidy these things up, surely?  I'm hazarding a guess that Essinger is probably quite young (I haven't Googled) and that his editor is too.  Anyway, the book is an entertaining read and I'll 'romp' through it within the next few days.
Due to me forgetting when my books were due to be renewed, I now owe the library £4.50, by the way.  Anyone wishing to help me out with this dreadful sum can donate via the tea and biscuits Paypal button on the right hand side of the page.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014



Today's Conundrum. How Do I Become a Self-realised Soul?

Blaven

Geoffrey's been attending Val Nark's Mindfulness and Self-realisation Training, every Monday at 7pm up at the new Community Centre.
Between that and his DebSoc and his Weekly Whingers Anonymous Group he's never in.  I keep forgetting that he's out. And then when he returns I forget that he's come back in, and I totter to the kitchen to put the kettle on.  I never put the kettle on!  For the past millenium I've always shouted through to Geoffrey to do it, quick as he likes.  I've even made my own tea, on occasion, due to this ghastly, new-fangled and disruptive routine.
It's not only that.  When he returns - and for days after - he insists on telling me All About It.  A blow-by-blow account of who brought the best biscuits,  who said what,  and endless theories about why they might have done so.
I don't mind the debating and the whingeing but mindfulness sounds like the biggest pile of - 
'Tuppy!'
'What?'
'I asked you to ping the finger cymbals after twenty minutes.'
'It's only been five, Geoffrey.'
'Oh.  It must just feel like twenty I suppose.' 
He's learning to meditate.  
Me,   I prefer to stare blankly out of the living-room window,  and smoke my pipe.  Preferably after a fry-up, four opium tabloids,  and two schooners of best Madeira.
Geoffrey used to do the same,  but he's fallen under the spell of Val Nark and her organic vegan lifestyle.
I doubt it will last.
Next Saturday at DebSoc, by the way, Val is debating naturopathy with the Ghastly Wilson.  Geoffrey's going along, of course, and he's so keen to impress his new so-called friends that he's baking his own biscuits and manning the 'Jackson' tea urn.  

More about that,  later....

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Fyfe Robertson, the great TV reporter





I remember Fyfe Robertson from childhood and I used to do a fairly good impression of him (when I was nine or something).  Here he is on his way to interview Barbara Cartland.  You don't get to see the actual interview, sadly.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014


copyright barry nicol all rights reserved

There are a couple of new pieces of Barry's art work in our Etsy shop with a range of prices - £2 to £300. Do have a look.  Unless sales take off significantly (or indeed at all) we'll probably take it down at Christmas.  It's really dispiriting not selling anything, but that is the way of things.
Here's the link. www.etsy.com/uk/shop/BlueCoracle

Friday, 10 October 2014

Robert Plant Quote of the Day

"Is there a time when you're not in full Robert Plant-ness? Because right now, I'm still getting the full Robert Plant," Colbert asks the rock god. "Is there a casual Robert Plant in sweatpants and flip-flops walking his dog, maybe with a handful of poop in a plastic bag? Does that exist?" Plant responds, "Backstage at the Fillmore in 1970, I think."

Read more: http://www.rollingstone.com/music/videos/watch-robert-plant-hand-stephen-colbert-a-joint-20141010#ixzz3FmBB70PN
Follow us: @rollingstone on Twitter | RollingStone on Facebook

World Mental Health Day

Geoffrey and I were sitting by the fire enjoying a bacon sandwich and a read of The Bugle.
'Anything interesting today,  Geoffrey?'  I wasn't expecting anything beyond Val Nark's health-food cookery column (hedgerow jam last week), letters to the editor written by the usual whingers, and a review of Grudge Match written by my nephew Tuppence.  Grudge Match is his favourite film.  He says it bears several repeat viewings to bring out the subtle nuances and he's written nine different reviews, or 'exegeses' as he calls them.
I thought there might be a few seasonal used items for sale in the small ads., such as fire irons, fleece dressing-gowns and slippers.   Cherry Fulmar tried to sell Apsley (her husband) last week. Clearly there's desperate trouble brewing in the Old Rectory...
But more of that later.
'There's a feature on World Mental Health Day.' Geoffrey was peering through his pince nez.
'How dull.  Move on. What's for sale?  Any sentient beings this week?  Has Val Nark got another vile recipe in?'
'Not this week.  It's her who's written the feature on World Mental Health Day.'
'Really?  Bore me senseless.
'She does therapy and everything.  And it isn't just the hot stones and the sweat yurt.  She does proper talking therapy as well now. She does counselling Tuppy.  It's only forty pounds an hour. I think you should go.'
'Why?  There's nothing wrong with my mental health.'
'That's because you mask everything behind a cloud of self-medication.  The drugs and pipe tobacco and that.  You're numbing yourself Tuppy.  You're not in touch with your inner self.'
'Opium and laudanum and Madeira and whatever else I can lay my hands on, are not drugs.  They're simple comestibles, like bacon and tea.'
'Val says you're an addict.  She says you need locking up for your own safety.  She says you're a fool to yourself Tuppy, and a bad example to Tuppence and the younger generation.'
'But it's Tuppence who supplies me!  Ooops I mean...'
'Aha!  So you've turned into a grass Uncle Tuppy!   I expected as much.  Fortunately,  I'm clever enough to evade capture - plus, I'm prepared for any eventuality.'
It was my nefarious nephew, and 'supplier', Tuppence.  He stood in the doorway armed to the teeth with a brace of pistols and a bandolier.  Behind him stood two rats, glowering and smoking roll-up cigarettes made with brown papers.
'Are those liquorice papers?' I asked. 'I haven't been able to get those for ages.'
'Don't try to distract our attention from your loose lips Uncle Tuppy.  You've let me down and in a Big Way.  AGAIN, might I add.  No wonder I've had to go to Val Nark for regression therapy.  I've learned loads.  Did you know, for example, that that cup of tea that you're holding is a quarter full, not three quarters empty?  Isn't that a marvellous insight?'
'But it's cold, and I don't want it. Besides, I don't give a flying *insert rude word of choice*.  Put the kettle on Geoffrey, and bring the thumbscrews.  I want to know when and why you were discussing my comestible consumption with Val *insert rude word of choice* Nark.'

More on (most of) this later.

Read more about Tuppy, Tuppence,  Geoffrey, and Val Nark here http://www.amazon.co.uk/Sea-Penguin-Part-Five-Selections-ebook/dp/B00FW19E0Y/ref=pd_rhf_gw_p_img_1

Find more of my stuff here http://www.amazon.co.uk/Kate-Smart/e/B008MFK3NE/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_pop_1

Woods near home, today.  Full of deer and birdsong, and from beyond the restless cries of migrating geese seeking shelter.
Creatures that know so much more about the world than we do. 

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Mrs T-G Attempts a Croquembouche

Last evening Geoffrey and I huddled by the stone urn on the Fulmars' patio, watching the final of the Great British Bake-off on their 93 inch curved flat screen 3D TV, via their French windows.   It's lucky for us that they never close their curtains - aping people in the movies I suppose.  Take Sean Connery in The Untouchables for example.  Why, for pity's sake, if you knew that the henchmen of Al Capone were after you, would you.....

'Tuppy!!'

Geoffrey shook me awake and handed me a steaming cup of T-G Tips.

'Insufficient today Geoffrey.  It'll have to be the adrenalin shot to the heart.'
'Okey-doke.  I'll just give the syringe a flush through under the tap.  I was using it to baste the...'
'No you weren't.  Just get on with it.'

50cc of industrial-strenf 'aortic adrenalin' and three mugs of T-G Tips and four bacon sandwiches and five slices of toast and Val Nark's 'hedgerow marmalade' later....

'What did you make of that then?'
'I thought it was awful.  Anyone can bake a cake.'
'Can you bake a cake?'
'No.  But did you see the state of them?''
'That's not nice.'
'I'm only being honest.'
'All right.  What about the croquembouches'?'
'Excuse me?'
'Precisely.  Mrs T-G is making one At This Very Moment.'
'How do you know that?'
'I can sense it.  Not only that, I can smell it.'
'You can't.'
'That's right,  I can't.  But I've got a fair idea.  And it's the type of fair idea that makes me Very Afraid and Keeps Me Awake at Night.  Remember the black sausage rolls?'
'Oooh yes.  I do.   Everyone got...'
'Quite.   I'll raise you those and give you the Croquembouche.   Croquembouche translates as 'break in mouth'.  Need I say more, in this context?  Probably not, but I will anyway.  She's erecting a vast choux tower covered with toffee hard enough to crack your eye teeth on, right at this very minute, and she's seeking ways of insisting that we eat it, fuelled by rage and resentment relating to her Paris persona.  She's beaten that choux mixture and spun that sugar until it can take no more, and she's brooding until she's scared she bursts with the power of sheer hatred.  I'll even bet that she thinks she's bilingual because she can say 'Croquembouche' with a cigarette in her mouth and an air of 1950s Gallic aplomb.'
'Well! If she IS bilingual I dare say that's her own business; the T-G hasn't mentioned that before.  I suppose her Paris days must have broadened her horizons....'
'You're being disingenuous again.  Stop it, and start focusing on what really matters.'
'All right.  What does really matter, when all's said and done though Tuppy?  I've always wondered about that, but I've thought perhaps it's best to not know.  A little knowledge is a dangerous thing Tuppy.'
'What do you mean?'
'I don't know what I mean.  Let's talk about Mrs T-G again.  It stops my head from spinning.'
'Well, one French word and she thinks she's Jean Paul Sartre.  Next she'll be contributing a weekly philosophy column to the Bugle.'
'Oh yes - the Bugle.  Our new local free at the point of delivery newspaper. But shouldn't she be thinking she's Simone de Beauvoir rather than Jean Paul Sartre?'
'She's bilingual, remember, silly?'
'Oh of course.....I'd forgotten already..........'

More on the Bugle later.  More on Mrs T-G's Croquembouche later.  More on the rights and wrongs of calling people 'silly', later.....

Find more Tuppy & Geoffrey tales on Amazon http://www.amazon.co.uk/Sea-Penguin-Part-Five-Selections-ebook/dp/B00FW19E0Y/ref=pd_rhf_gw_p_img_1

Friday, 3 October 2014

Peter Gabriel - Solsbury Hill





Nice video.

KING CRIMSON - Starless - Live 1974 -

Poetry, and Psychogenic Osmosis

It was National Poetry Day yesterday.  I love poetry. But there's nothing worse than looking at your Twitter timeline and seeing folk banging on about it.  I dislike the feeling of being churlish and sour of spirit (where's the harm in tweeting poetry?), while at the same time I think it's quite a sane reaction; Twitter is no place to be, if you want to 'create' anything other than kitten pictures, puns and one-liners. The inner disquiet produced by all this, is enough to put me off writing, completely.  Well, for about five minutes.  Almost!
It's not really that though.  For me, the whole literary thing feels a bit distasteful and uncomfortable.  There are a couple of exceptions though.  There's a John Betjeman account I like, and a Richard Jefferies.
My favourite poet is probably Coleridge.  I'm fondest of him anyway.  It's probably the opium.  I've most likely absorbed quantities of it via his poems, through some form of psychogenic osmosis.
Frost at Midnight is probably my favourite Coleridge poem.  'The Frost performs its secret ministry,  Unhelped by any wind*.' 
I'm unlikely to have discovered it had I not bought a small second hand edition of a selection of his poems after browsing in a second hand bookshop about twenty years ago.  The bookshop closed ten years ago, at least, and now there is nowhere to browse, unless I go to a city.
Don't start me off complaining again, but you can't browse books on the internet.  You just can't.


There once was a girl with a plan
To cook with an old frying pan
She fried up some bread
And stood on her head
In a market in Uzbekhistan.

S.T. Coleridge (after)

*titters at the word wind

Sea Penguin Part Five still available for Free Download

...till the end of today, I think - Amazon is always a bit off with their timing so it's hard to be precise.
Find it via this link http://www.amazon.co.uk/Sea-Penguin-Part-Five-Selections-ebook/dp/B00FW19E0Y/ref=pd_rhf_gw_p_img_1 - if you would like to know what it's all about - here's a review by Oscar McCloud.

Mrs Tuppfinder discovers that Tuppy and Geoffrey have been reading her secret diary recording her youth in |Paris. Like any woman whose privacy has been invaded she goes quite insane. Our heroes are chained up and locked in the Towers dungeon that is flooded with each tide, they have to escape or drown. Geoffrey decides to be come a stand up comedian and tries his talent in the Puff Inn where Mrs Tupfinder reeks revenge by serving up her Black Sausage rolls and renders everyone with the dreaded turmoil of diarrhoea
Tuppfinder General experiments with giant South American Wasps to breed a garden variety that can produce a highly psychoactive venom. Tuppy gets trapped in ivy up a 330ft wall and suffers hallucinations about twirly wirlys and Killer Twins dressed in kilts.
Mrs Tuppfinder’s revenge with food continues with a giant Easter Egg made from sausage meat, in fact this whole episode is obsessed and you can get quite obese just reading about it. Tuppence continues his musical career with a solar powered guitar and although underage, he is drinking tequila mixed with Vimto. The community of the Rocky Outcrop are concerned that the Vimto might rot his teeth. His smuggling and illegal guns as leader of a gang of criminal rats are the least of their worries, it seems.
A new arrival in the form of Melaena Slovelbum Steele makes an appearance, Mrs Tuppfinder’s neice. She brings politix and introduces a fast day along with a routine of healthy living. This goes against the hard and fast culture of salty snaxs and lashings of Medeira and she has to be dealt with! Tuppfinder General points out that people go missing all the time, hereabouts.
Dave and Valerie Nark the eco campers have returned from their travels wearing Peruvian hats. They take over the tourist car park with their Yurts, and invite their vegan friends to holiday around the Rocky Outcrop. This causes mayhem with the locals burning out the Yurts…
Part five is just as weird and as confused as the previous adventures and with the use of laudanum and opiates and extravagant binging on food I can understand why. I am not sure I can continue observing the madness from the Rocky Outcrop and still eat sensibly.

Thanks Oscar - very much appreciated.  I might have to do a Part Six.....




Monday, 29 September 2014

Free Kindle E-book this week

I can't even GIVE Sea Penguin Part Five away.  For free.  Nobody wants it.  Bastards!!  it's not THAT bad.

Here's the sodding link anyway.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Sea-Penguin-Part-Five-Selections-ebook/dp/B00FW19E0Y/ref=pd_rhf_dp_p_img_2 

Now Reading - A Blaze of Autumn Sunshine by Tony Benn

I'm quite enjoying this book, which I borrowed from the local library.  It's infuriatingly unusual these days, for me to find a book that I actually want to read, in the library.  The library is no longer a place whose purpose is to encourage 'book learning'.  It is multi-functional.  It is noisy.  It hosts playgroups and old peoples groups and job clubs and computers.  And worst of all - it has a really terrible and rapidly-depleting selection of books.  As I've said before.
I'd like to read Benn's earlier Diaries.  He had so much irreplaceable knowledge and experience of our country's politics and the ways of government.  This final one is quite unavoidably depressing, because his health is clearly deteriorating, he's dealing admirably and bravely and realistically with a host of problems relating to his age, and he feels (understandably, at 82) that he's 'on his way out'.
I'm 54 and I often feel that I'm 'on my way out', as well.  But that's another matter. (or is it??) Growing old is no fun, but it's better than the alternative, as someone once said.
Anyway, it's a very interesting read.  I enjoy following politics, though I'm not a member of any particular party.  It begins in 2007 around the start of Gordon Brown's stint as PM and the financial meltdown.  Benn witnesses the demise of the Labour Party as he knew it, and the concurrent rise of the global economy.  He expects UKIP to thrive in such an environment, as indeed they do.  Nationalism, he says, is not the way forward - democracy is. He describes Brown as a 'managing director' of Britain - a Britain devoid of Trade Union power - but he writes more positively about him than Blair, saying that when he sees Blair and that 'awful smile', his 'blood runs cold'.   All in all, he's very depressed by the state of politics and who can blame him?  Just about everything ghastly he expected to happen, has.
I'm only on page 95 by the way.  However - I just, in the middle of writing this - skipped to the last chapter, 'Life after Diaries', in which he describes, with far more grace than I can envisage mustering in such circumstances, moving out of the family home and into a flat where he receives round the clock care.  Still little nuggets of information relevant to today's politics shine out - for example, he was Energy Minister in 1975 when North Sea oil was discovered, and he set up a system whereby 25% of the oil belonged to the Treasury rather than the oil companies.  This, had it been retained, would have ensured an 'oil fund' which could have been used in times of austerity - however, Thatcher sold it off.
Not the greedy and evil 'Westminster' we heard so much about during the referendum.  Thatcher.
Yes, that's the Thatcher upon whose back, by and large, because the Scottish electorate disliked her so, and they defined themselves against her, the SNP clambered to power.  After helping her INTO power, in the first place, of course.   That's the SNP whose membership has just overtaken that of the entire Libdems, and who are bankrolled by the unspeakable Brian Souter and two people spending their lottery winnings.
In my day the SNP were a joke. They had no policies, no underpinning philosophy except nationalism.  I don't think they've changed except they have much more power and influence, unfortunately.  People are off their heads and I only hope they gain some insight soon.
I'll say no more about politics.  Unless further referendum-style ghastliness ensues which seems likely to affect the warp and weft of my daily life.

Sunday, 28 September 2014

New Review on Amazon - and free Kindle promotion tomorrow

Oscar McCloud has written another thoroughly kind review - this time of Sea Penguin Part Four.
Here it is.

The new year starts with Tuppy and Geoffrey determined to live a healthy life and give up their addictions to salty snaxs; but can they keep their resolution or does events overtake them? Geoffrey decides to go traveling with the migrating geese and eats only seaweed and fish. He sends letters home to keep his friends informed of his travels, which includes getting his feathers scorched by a Nuclear Power station.
Technology starts to arrive with the new road for the Wind Turbine farm that the residents decide has to be stopped. But advancement in other devices come along, there are digital cameras, a Hadron Colider, a giant gym with running machines and a useful device, the Laser gun. The gun’s sole purpose is to blast the skin off the top of rice puddings.
Of course there is the Tuppfinder’s Soul Extractor machine, which causes fear and disruption. However this device seems to take second place to the other escapades on the Rocky Outcrop.
Tuppence the delinquent lamb has embarked on smuggling by wrecking ships, he continues singing with his rock group including the backing group of rats at the lock ins at the Puff Inn. He goes on to devise a ‘munny’ making scheme by turning Baby Orca into fish fingers. The point that Baby Orca is a mammal and not a fish is lost on him. This leads us on to learn the true ‘Hierarchy of Meat’ or better put; as your place in the food chain. In an attempt to warn Baby Orca our heroes are left adrift on the high seas and need to be rescued once again.
There are plenty lashings of Medeira, cocktails of Purple Peril, cravings for salt snacks and poor Geoffrey develops a craving that becomes an addiction to Black Bun and he needs to be saved from his downward spiral into hell.
Although this is a continuation of the previous Sea Penguin parts 1- 3, the story line has become adrift and is bobbing on the ocean currents, the reader therefore needs to keep their wits about them to stay engaged, but otherwise an enjoyable adventure around the Rocky Outcrop.
Fun reading and a must after parts 1 - 3.

Thanks Oscar - very much appreciated.  Not many people take the time to write reviews and I thank you very much.  I hope you and others might have a crack at Part Five, which will be available free for the next few days (it's only 77p anyway.....but hardly anyone's shown any interest.  I've re-read it and although I have considered unpublishing it because it's a bit disjointed, some of it is quite funny, and worth preserving,  although I say so myself...)

Here's the link.  http://www.amazon.co.uk/Sea-Penguin-Part-Five-Selections-ebook/dp/B00FW19E0Y/ref=la_B008MFK3NE_1_5?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1411939313&sr=1-5

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Our Saturday Night plans: thinking of less cliched ways to describe Death.



'Does anything matter any more, Tuppy?'
'No Geoffrey.  Nothing matters any more, except the magical, the strange, and the unknown.'
'Isn't everything magical, strange and unknown, really, when you sit down and think about it?'
'I don't know about that.  I only know that my knee hurts, and my joints ache more in the morning with every day that passes, and if I'm not careful my back goes out when I'm least expecting it.  On top of that,  I can't manage any drugs harder than a junior aspirin unless I'm really in the mood to dice with Death.'
'Then you must come to terms with your own mortality.'
'I suppose I must, although I'll try my hardest to find a less cliched way of putting it.'
'All right.  So will I.'
'Great!  That's our Saturday night sorted.  Pen and paper Geoffrey - crack open the Madeira and the ginger crunch creams, and let's see what we can come up with!'
'By the way Tuppy....'
'Yes?  what is it?'
'You might try, as kind of a sub-set of our evening's task slash fun, to find a less cliched way of saying 'dice with Death'.  If it's not too much for you and all.'
'OK.  Fair point. I'll work on it.  But don't interrupt me again when I'm concentrating, or I'll tell everyone it was you who wee-weed in the community centre teapot last Friday, in a fit of pique after you failed - yet again - to win the DebSoc Whingers Anonymous Whinge of the Week Hamper.'


If they DO come up with any less cliched phrases, for anything, I will post them tomorrow.....

Meanwhile here is a link to more Tuppy and Geoffrey tales, on Amazon http://www.amazon.co.uk/Sea-Penguin-Fireside-Outcrop-Selections-ebook/dp/B007IKMM7E/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1411817855&sr=8-1&keywords=sea+penguin+part+three

Friday, 26 September 2014

New Item for sale in our shop



I put a new item up for sale in our Etsy shop this morning.  It's a turtle, painted by Barry in oils, and varnished, on a piece of local wood.  It has a crack at the top where the wood split, and a knot hole.  But that is what happens with untreated wood, she says hastily and defensively, it's not broken, honest it's not, and I personally really like it.   Here's a picture with a link to the shop.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Now Reading...JK Rowling's The Casual Vacancy, and others....

I finally finished reading JK Rowling's The Casual Vacancy last night.  I don't read much contemporary fiction, and never best sellers, so it's not my usual kind of book, but I got quite gripped by it. Anyone who follows the blog (hello, new reader from Kazakhstan) might remember that I bought this book in a charity shop a couple of months ago.  If it hadn't been a bargain buy I would never have chosen it.  I can't say I'm glad I did, but reading it was quite an experience all the same.  I didn't take to the first quarter or so, but I persevered, and as I persevered I gradually got drawn into the story almost against my better instincts, and became weirdly interested to see what happened next - interested to the extent that I could hardly put the book down during the last chapters.  I suppose that's what happens when you read Harry Potter books - I haven't read any of those, yet.  The Casual Vacancy is actually even grimmer than the lurid reviews led me to expect.  Unremittingly grim, with an appallingly sad end.  However, much of it is, unfortunately for us humans, pretty true to some aspects of life.  I skimmed through a fair bit of it to get to the interesting bits of plot, and didn't engage at all with quite a few of the characters - in fact I still wasn't sure who they all were, at the end. The ones who were most engaging were the teenagers - and the dead man (a nice bloke, with a ginger beard), who forms the hub of the story and links everyone together.   The rest of the adults were a pretty vile and graceless bunch.
I reckon the book could have been edited down by about a quarter, at least.
I might have a crack at one of her detective stories next - I bet they're equally gripping.  They'll need to be available in the library or charity shop bargain shelf though.
I mention the library because I FINALLY managed to find some books to borrow.  Blog readers will know that the quality of books in my local library has been RUBBISH of late.  However, this week I found Tony Benn's last 'Diaries' (I love a political diary!), A Female Genius by James Essinger, which is about how Byron's daughter Ada Lovelace started the computer age (apparently), and a biography of William Burroughs.  I think the Diaries are going to be the best of the three as far as I'm concerned.  The Burroughs book mentions Irvine Welsh in the blurb, and that immediately makes me want to put it back on the shelf again.  I read Burroughs as a teenager, and wasn't hugely keen - I think I felt I should like him, but didn't.  What he was though, was interesting.  Which is almost always good.  I'll see how I get on with the biography.  The Essinger, I suspect, will be dull, because they've put a contemporary spin on it. But I love the Romantic era, so I'll try to keep an open mind, and give it my best shot.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

My Novel Progress Chart, or N.P.C. - plus, More Wrinkles than a Wrinkly Person's Dangly Bits

September 21st and I've done bog all.
I can't blame it on anything, I've had plenty of time.
Ah well.  I'm sure I'll hit my stride at some point - possibly just as I'm toppling into my grave or being wheeled into the back of an ambulance, having collapsed with a bad case of apathy.
In other news - regarding the Snottish Referenderererererereeedenedededum, I think it's all pretty ghastly, basically, and a lot of nasty rhetoric flying about on both sides. Last week, for example, we were to 'grab a granny'.  I always thought that was unwise, on lots of levels.  This week,  grannies are to blame for Everything, being stupid and gullible or greedy and mean.  A lot of grannies are aged about 40 by the way.  And some over 70s are involved in online pron and so forth (for want of a better phrase).  This may be to supplement their pensions and/or just because they enjoy it.  Others are involved in 'rock/beat/pop combos', such as that well-known group, the Rolling Stones. More wrinkles than a very very wrinkly male person's dangly bits.  Mind you they live somewhere else don't they.  If they don't they probably should.  And, they're grandads, rather than grannies.  Although I'm not sure that gender really matters much.  Or indeed sexual orientation.  I'm getting muddled again.  I'd better have a wee lie down and a swig of my Sanatogen.
Overall, best to sit back and hope that the dust settles*.
*N.B. I wouldn't want anyone to think I'm a 'clart'. Any settled dust will of course be removed IMMEDIATELY, using a soft cloth and a bowl of hot soapy water.  *fetches pinny and Marigolds*

Find my hilarious* e-books here via this link http://www.amazon.co.uk/Sea-Penguin-Fireside-Outcrop-Selections-ebook/dp/B007IKMM7E  *doesn't necessarily mean 'hilarious'

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Today's Walk - a burial cairn and church at Bendochy

Green man on an 18th century gravestone in Bendochy churchyard

Fields near Coupar Angus, looking south east from a prehistoric burial cairn

An oak tree on the burial mound
Elder bushes, round the burial mound
Bendochy library
Grave, Bendochy churchyard
Bendochy Church - bell dates from the 1600s, I believe
A yew tree in the churchyard

The burial mound can be seen for miles.

We went for a short but very enjoyable outing today, to Bendochy, about two miles from Coupar Angus.  It's a lovely area, packed with prehistoric and medieval history, if you care to look beyond the horrible 'chicken factory' and can escape its vile stench.
Weather warm and dry.  On our walk up the field to the burial mound pictured above, we saw several red admiral butterflies on the daisies growing through the stubble, and a couple of tortoiseshells.  The mound is quite spectacular and can be seen for miles, especially on a sunny day like this was, with the green trees standing out against the blue sky and the golden stubble.  There are large Scots pines and oak trees on top, and lots of elders laden with berries.  Quite a remarkable place.
We walked round the mound, skirting the trees.  To walk in would have been wrong.
From there we went over to Bendochy church.  That's another remarkably historic place, with quite a number of graves dating back to the 1700s, and mostly in pretty good condition.  The date on one read 1658.  
There are also Commonwealth War Graves in the churchyard, and an arched entrance that is also a war memorial; it looks art deco and I assume it must be. It features a sculpted relief of a pelican feeding its young, at the top of the arch - the symbol of self-sacrifice.  It's a very peaceful place that looks quite undisturbed.
In the car park we couldn't help but notice a bright red condom (used) and the remains of a 'joint'. Ah well.  Nice to know that the heart of life beats on, next to the bones and dust of centuries past, I suppose.